Assemblyman Bill Reilich (R,C,I-Greece) Tuesday spoke out in support of Gov. George Pataki’s proposals to strengthen penalties associated with existing illegal gun-trafficking laws during a rally held at the Watts Building in Rochester.
Also lending their support for the measures were state Sen. Joe Robach (R-Greece), Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green and Rochester Police Chief Cedric Alexander. Assemblymen Joe Errigo R,C-Conesus), Bob Oaks (R,C-Macedon) and Brian Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) also attended and spoke in favor of the proposals.
“I am optimistic about the opportunity this special session will provide,” stated Reilich, “and I thank the Governor for calling the Legislature together to vote on this important legislation. Hopefully we can get Speaker Silver and the Assembly majority to agree with us and pass the governor’s proposal.” Reilich was referring to Pataki’s call for a special session of the state Legislature on Wednesday, Dec. 21, so both houses can discuss and vote on his legislation.
The recent shooting deaths of two New York City police officers sparked a fire under the Assembly minority, who have been fighting hard to reform the current criminal justice system in an effort to keep illegal guns out of communities across the state.
Pataki’s legislation aims to curb illegal sales and possession of firearms and to protect law enforcement officers.
The Illegal Firearms Bill would reclassify many crimes related to the criminal sale and possession of illegal firearms, and close loopholes that allow many offenders to go free rather than serve prison time. Under current state law, Reilich noted, an individual caught with as many as 19 illegal guns faces “barely a misdemeanor, and it’s considered no worse than shoplifting. In fact, the perpetrator could face only probation. With this bill, the illegal sale of just one firearm would constitute a violent felony.”
The Crimes Against Law Enforcement Bill would increase penalties for crimes committed against police and peace officers, and correctional service employees. The bill would allow for the death penalty provision against anyone found guilty of murdering a law enforcement officer.
“I am extremely hopeful we can get this done,” added Reilich. “I am getting tired of the procrastinating that continually goes with this type of issue. We are so close to making these proposals laws. I just hope Speaker Sheldon Silver allows this issue to come to a vote. Now, however, all we can do is wait until tomorrow, and hope.”
Pataki first proposed tougher penalties for illegal gun-traffickers in 2001. The Senate has repeatedly passed the legislation, most recently by a margin of 60-0, while Silver has not allowed Assembly members to vote on it.
Many Assembly minority conference members, police officials, and victim and gun-control advocates have spoken out on this issue.